Sunday, March 8, 2009
Jeff Guinn strips away the myths and reveal the real Bonnie & Clyde in Go Down Together.
Some Day they'll go down together
And they'll bury them side by side
To a few it'll be grief---
To the law a relief---
But it's the death for Bonnie and Clyde.
"The Trail's End" by Bonnie Parker
In the 1967 movie Bonnie and Clyde starring Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway Bonnie and Clyde died in a shoot with the law firing their guns away near their hideout in Beinville Parish, Louisiana on May 23 1934. It is one the most iconic scenes in movie history.
It also is historically inaccurate. From how the two met to just how they died and everything in between.
With the 75Th Anniversary of the duos death coming up author Jeff Guinn, strips away the myths surrounding the duo lives and deaths to gives the true story of Bonnie and Clyde in his new book Go Down Together: The True Untold Story of Bonnie and Clyde.
Guinn manages dig through the stories to find the real Bonnie and Clyde. Many of the myths or stories around these two came from the newspapers as much as anything. It was the Depression. Newspapers sales were down do to the fact that people didn't want to reminded of the countries situation. They wanted to read anything that didn't remind them just how poor they were. So the papers turn to the outlaws of the era to sell papers.And they did, Al Capone Pretty Boy Floyd, John Dillinger and of course Bonnie and Clyde.
And they loved it. They loved to read about themselves in the paper. It wasn't unusual for the police to find newspaper clipping left behind in cars that they stolen and left to the side of the road after stealing another one.
The papers loved to either exaggerate or out right lie about them for sales sakes. There was a time when these two were the most popular people in America except with the law. The people saw these two as modern day heroes who were sticking it to big business who in turn was sticking it to the common people. They were modern day Robin Hoods when stories of hostages being taken and released and given money made it to the papers.
The sad truth was that they were neither.
Clyde before he met Bonnie was in constant trouble with the law. It wasn't unusual for the police to pick him up anytime a car was stolen or some place was broken into. Clyde like his father wanted to be his own boss(Henry Clyde's father was a farmer among other things and you could say he was his own boss but he was poor his entire life). He tried to several jobs but when he wasn't getting where he thought he should he quit. So he turned to crime just like his older brother Buck. He do just about anything steal cars, break into factories safes. What ever he thought would get him the life he wanted. Even after spending time on a prison farm for armed robbery an accessory to murder he turned back to crime vowing that he would never go back to jail. but despite the stories he was not a criminal genus. More often than not he and his gang, eventually known as the Barrow Gang would come up with nothing.
Bonnie on the other hand had dreams of Broadway and being famous. Bonnie loved to write poetry and sing. She married when she was sixteen. At first it seemed perfect but her husband would disappear twice. The second time she would find out that he was running with a gang and ended up in jail. She would be separated from him find work as a waitress(she would never divorce her husband. When she was killed she was wearing her wedding ring).
Her and Clyde would meet in 1930 at a party at her Brother's and sister in law's house and it was an instant attraction(the 67 movie written that they met when Clyde was attempting to steal her mother's car. In real life her mother didn't have car).
Bonnie would wait for Clyde to serve his prison time. Later Bonnie would serve 3 months while waiting for a Grand Jury trial to see if they would press charges for Bonnie helping Clyde and his gang. It was in this time that Bonnie wrote poetry. Some of the poems allured to things like drug use and prostitution. Though there was never any proof one way or the other it is surmised that Bonnie may have supplemented her earnings through prostitution. The Grand Jury found her not guilty of any crimes and set her free(Believe it or not Texas was one state that was more lenient on woman than any other state in particular the Southern States).
After that these two were inseparable. They were on the move pretty much from there on With various gang members. Especially after a run in with police that resulted in the death of two officers. Also on the run would be Clyde's brother and his wife Blance. Buck just was pardoned after turning himself in a few years earlier. He met up with his brother to try and talk him out of crime and to turn himself in. The police were about to raid the house they were in thinking that they were bootleggers not realizing who was actually in the place.
For the next year and half they would be on the run. Robbing banks, stores, stealing cars, anything to get money to live. They would also take hostages either police or civilians. And yes when they would let them go they would give them money sometimes to get back home. It was not that they didn't want to kill them. The gang, especially Clyde proved that they would kill to survive and remain free. But only if they felt they had no other options. If they had the choice they would prefer to run.
But they one thing that was constant was they always came back to home to visit family. It was here that it was the only time they felt safe. It was on these occasions that Bonnie's mother would try and talk her from staying with Clyde. Though her and the Barrows had an uneasy friendship she deeply resent Clyde and felt that he was going to get her daughter killed(It was on what was to be the last visit to see family that Bonnie gave her mother the poem End of the Line and requested that her and Clyde be buried together). Though eventually Buck would die on the run and his wife would end up in prison just a few months before Bonnie and Clyde would die.
Bonnie and Clyde knew that they were never going to captured alive. They knew that eventually they end up dead. But even still their love for each other was unbreakable. But as I said these weren't the heroes that people thought. Being on the run would result in 11 deaths. Most being police officers.
For two years they lived on the run which was easier back then. Back then states didn't corporate as they do now. Even though they robbed several banks over the years at that time bank robbery was not a federal offense(after their death it then become a federal offense and also aiding and abetting know criminals would be a crime for at that time it wasn't. That was why their families never were arrested even with the local police knowing that they were seeing them).
What brought the two down was a gang member seeking a pardon if he helped turn them in. Eventually the Louisiana Police working with a former Texas Ranger who was hired specifically to bring them down and four other Texas officers would on May 23 1934 on a back road in Beinville Parish, Louisiana that the six officers would open fire on the car that Bonnie and Clyde were killing both. As in the movie neither Bonnie or Clyde fired a single shot(also another thing with the movie is that it clearly showed Bonnie participating in actual robberies, In fact she never did and more than likely never fired a gun the whole time on the run except maybe for target practice).
Jeff Guinn has done a beautiful job with Go Down Together. He gives a clear understanding of the times in which these two lived in. He has stripped down the myths to show us the human side of these two not the legend woven by the newspapers of the time and of time itself. Between the first and last page he shows us that even though what they did was wrong not just legally but morally they were doing what they thought they had to do to survive. He shows us two people who strongly cared about their family(any money they had from robberies they would share with family). Clyde wanted to be his own boss and have others look up to him. Bonnie wanted fame and to be remembered(near the end is quite possible she was an alcoholic). Both got what they wanted. Today the legend of Bonnie and Clyde has survived almost a century. And coming up on the 75Th anniversary of their deaths it's not hard to imagine that they will be remembered in another 75 years.